The Kinematics of the Return of Serve in Tennis: The Role of Anticipatory Information


Visual anticipatory information from early periods of ball flight is thought necessary to intercept the ball in many sports. This study analyzed the temporal characteristics of returning a tennis serve by manipulating the amount of visual information available to the receiver. The movements of tennis players receiving ‘serves’ were measured on court. Participants received serves when playing against a ball machine or an actual server during full vision conditions and also during partial vision occlusion (i.e., early ball flight, second third, last third of ball projection). We measured the moment of the receiver’s movement initiation; the back swing duration; and the forward swing duration. There were no consistent differences in these movement characteristics between the ball machine and the server up to the projection speed of 125 There were differences in the duration of the forward swing during the partial vision conditions. Initiation of the forward swing occurred earlier and the swing duration was increased when the first third of ball flight was occluded. Important anticipatory information about when to initiate the forward swing is present during the first third of ball flight. When receiving moderately fast serves up to 125, the receiver does not appear to use information from the server’s action to modify the timing of their response.


2016-10-20T15:23:30-05:00November 26th, 2012|Sports Exercise Science, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on The Kinematics of the Return of Serve in Tennis: The Role of Anticipatory Information

Physical Self-Perception Profile of Female College Students: Kinesiology Majors vs. Non-Kinesiology Majors


The purpose of this study was to compare college student’s Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP) (18) scores in female kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology majors. Participants included 68 female kinesiology majors and 88 female non-majors in a mid-sized university. The mean age for the kinesiology majors was 20.8 years with a standard deviation of 2.31 and non-kinesiology majors was 19.7 years with a standard deviation of 3.16. MANOVA results indicated a significant difference between kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology major’s self-perceptions. Results show that kinesiology majors had significant higher self-perceptions of their sports competence, physical condition, physical self-worth, and physical strength. Researchers believe that identifying groups of people with low self-perceptions of theirphysical abilities and implementing strategies to improve these self-perceptions to increase physical activity levels may help in decreasing weight related health issues. This study will aid coaches, teachers, parents, athletic trainers, and health and fitness instructors in assessing individuals who struggle with low self-esteem in relation to their physical abilities and movements. Professionals will be encouraged to provide physical ability support and implement effective strategies to improve self-perceptions in order to increase physical activity levels.


2016-10-20T15:15:59-05:00November 21st, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Exercise Science, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Physical Self-Perception Profile of Female College Students: Kinesiology Majors vs. Non-Kinesiology Majors

The Mentoring Role of High School Girls’ Basketball Coaches in the Collegiate Recruiting Process


This study was designed to determine Louisiana high school girls’ basketball coaches’ perceptions of their roles as mentors; the impact coaches have on choices female athletes make regarding attendance in post-secondary education; the type of information possessed by the coaches to assist in these decisions; and whether the coaches perceived additional training related to collegiate recruiting was needed for coaches. Coaches reported a strong belief in their roles as mentors, have a disparity of beliefs regarding what students will face during the recruiting process and believe additional training would benefits themselves, their peers, and their athletes. It was further concluded a deficiency exists in the level of knowledge possessed by the coaches regarding recruiting rules and eligibility requirements


The opportunities for high school girls’ basketball players to obtain college scholarships are plentiful and competitive. Eleven thousand college scholarships are available across the United States for young female athletes. As specialized teachers, coaches of student-athletes have a tremendous chance to influence and to change the lives of the individual under their charge (Nasir & Hand, 2008). According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), of the females who attend college, roughly 50,000 initially attend as or become student-athletes (2009b). For the student-athlete who attempts to use athleticism as a mechanism to garner assistance for college, the pressure to perform at high levels is a daily fact of life (Lawrence, Harrison, & Stone, 2009).

Lough (2001) examined the coaches’ role as mentors at the college level and how that interaction often drives a career choice by a graduating college student. The role mentors played in the study was significant. Issues such as developing relationships, understanding communication anomalies, and providing visible and connected examples of role models were key components driving college athletes to make significant career choices (Lough, 2001). However, no study could be found that addressed the objectives of this study, namely, the mentoring role of high school girls’ basketball coaches in the collegiate recruiting process.


This study examined Louisiana girls’ high school basketball coaches’ perceptions of the mentoring relationship between aspiring basketball players and arguably the person with the most potential to assist the athlete during her collegiate recruiting process: Her high school coach. The objectives were to describe: (1) the coaches’ personal and demographic characteristics; (2) the coaches’ estimates of the collegiate athletic opportunities afforded to their female basketball players; (3) the coaches’ knowledge of academic standards and recruiting requirements for entry into collegiate athletics into the two primary organizations for collegiate basketball, the NCAA and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA); (4) the coaches’ perceptions of their role as mentor fortheir female high school athletes; (5) the coaches’ perceptions regarding the collegiate environment that student-athletes may encounter; and (6) the coaches’ perception regarding whether additional training is needed to strengthen the coaches’ knowledge of collegiate recruiting rules.


Kram’s mentor role theory (1985) provided the framework for this study. Kram indicated that mentoring involved a relationship that enriches individual progress and growth. She indicated that mentoring is comprised of either psychosocial or career components. The psychosocial functions build competence, effectiveness, and identity in the professional roles of mentors and mentees in areas such as role modeling, acceptance, confirmation, friendship, and counseling (Kram, 1985). Kram delineated four sub-areas within the career/professional aspect of the relationship: Exposure and visibility; sponsorship; protection; and coaching. Kram maintained that the relationship increased in benefit to the mentee as the mentor provided more of these functions. Mentoring is not a rigid relationship – mentors may be partially orcompletely meeting the mentor’s needs (Ragins & Cotton, 1999). Mentoring may have a delayed rather than immediate impact and the benefits may be realized over an extended period of time (Kram).

Ragins and Kram (2007) addressed the necessity of more research into the area of the “rising star” effect in a mentor-mentee relationship. In this study, we examined the recruitable athlete who is, in fact, the “rising star” the high school coach mentors on a periodic basis. With the evolved framework of Ragins and Kram (2007) firmly in mind, we examined the perception that the mentor (coach) has in terms of what he or she should be providing to the mentee.

Kram (1985) delineated four stages of the mentee-mentor relationship: Invitation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. Kram’s theory relates to a 3-8 year relationship between adult professionals. Though our study relates to the relationship between an adult and mid to late teenagers (15-18 year old), the framework is similar. The Kram framework is applicable to the evolving relationship between the coach and his or her athlete who is being recruited to play at the collegiate level.


The high school girls’ basketball coach is the focus of this research. The coach stands at the cross roads between the student-athlete and the college and a potentially life altering decision for a young athlete. The coach’s knowledge and perception of their role are critical for the student-athlete.

Coach Behavior and Immediacy

The coach’s influence on the athlete and the interaction between the coach and the athlete is the undergirding aspect in need of exploration. Turman’s (2008) study of the phenomenon of whether the coach’s verbal immediacy had an effect on both the individual and on the team identified a definitive link and a predictor of the satisfaction of the athlete both with the program (team) and with the coach. Turman (2003) also examined the amount of time players spent with and in close physical proximity to a coach. Though the focus of the study was on verbal and non-verbal immediacies, the extrapolation to the coach’s influence is unmistaken.

Donohue, Miller, Crammer, Cross, and Covassin (2007) highlighted the importance of the influence of the coach on the athlete. While the study had a four-pronged approach for measurement (i.e., looking at relationships with teammates, families, peers, and coaches), the primary outcome in relation to this study was the apparent dissatisfaction that a significant number of student-athletes have with their relationships with their coaches. Data indicated a wide area of strengths and weaknesses in the various relationships, but poor relationships with and among coaches are problematic.

Jowett (2005) chronicled a multi-faceted relationship between the coach and the athlete with the broad issue of behavior and interpersonal interactions at the core. Three schools of thought are provided in terms of the level of and depth of the relationship as they relate to the behavior of the coach: Effective versus ineffective relationships; successful versus unsuccessful relationships; and helping relationships. While athletics by its nature is “win oriented,” Jowett (2005) described a level of success that goes to developing a relationship that is both helpful to the coach and to the student.

What Is at Stake?

In addition to the intrinsic reward of earning an athletic scholarship, a great deal of costs and future earnings are also at stake for the student-athlete and within the power of influence by the coach. According to the U.S. government, the average per year cost in an average four-year college is approximately $10,000 per year. Private and some high prestige public institutions cost much more. In the near term, what is at stake is worth an average of $40,000 per student-athlete who earns a full scholarship (U.S. Department of State, 2009).

In the long term, the average lifetime earnings for a college graduate are $1.3 million more than the earnings of an average high school graduate. So, in addition to the near term cost of paying for an education, the college graduate has a better opportunity to earn higher life-time earnings than someone who does not attend college (University of Wisconsin-River Falls, 2009).

College Coaches: What Are They Seeking?

Possibly one of the most critical pieces of information a high school coach can know and be prepared to pass on to student-athletes is what a college coach is looking for when they are recruiting athletes. These traits include motivation/competitiveness, “coachability” (referring to an athlete’s propensity to receive and use instruction in a positive manner), the development potential of the athlete, the influence of the coach, influence of one’s teammates, and miscellaneous contextual influences as identified by Giacobbi et al. (2002) as key elements college coaches and recruiters are seeking in their scholarship athletes.

While these traits may seem like “common sense,” their existence and prevalence need to be communicated to the potential recruit by someone. The question arises as to “how” the future college athlete would know these things intrinsically? The rational assumption is someone would have to impart this knowledge and the ensuing rational step is that the high school coach is the most likely candidate to impart this information to the athlete (Lawrence et al., 2009).

Academic Preparation: Necessity of Preparation and Role of the Coach

A truly critical reality a coach should prepare students for is the rigor of academics at the collegiate level. Though the role of the coach is to prepare a student-athlete for competition at the high school level, this paper has established the fact the massive volume of time spent with the student-athlete affords the coach an unparalleled opportunity to provide both guidance and wisdom in terms of telling the student-athlete what life will be like once she leaves the friendly and comfortable confines of the high school environment.

The literature described in the next few paragraphs provides some startling data and anecdotal but believable stories of experiences of two high school students, Nate Miles and, Bryce Brown, upon reaching the collegiate level. A glaring missing piece in the equation is the role or lack of role high school coaches had in these students’ lives as they prepared to make critical decisions and in the terminal phase of high school as the student-athletes prepared for entry into college.

Thamel (2011) reported on the case of Nate Miles, a prized male recruit who lived an odyssey of an existence as a high school student. The young man who was the focus of the story reportedly moved five times during high school, mostly at the urging of “agent” type personnel who tried to convince the young man he had a great future as a collegiate and professional basketball player. Though Mr. Miles was a great player, the “whole person” concept of a solid student, solid person did not exist, and his path was shortened and blunted because of probable outside influences. The non-existence of a high school coach and mentor to guide the young man through these complicated waters is a gaping hole in the article and the story about a lost opportunity.

Evans and Thamel (2009) also reported on a case of a high profile high school football recruit who had his college career choices altered or denied because of his association with someone who was reportedly acting as his agent. Bryce Brown, a highly prized football player from Kansas had doors closed for him on more than one occasion when his association with a recruiting service raised questions regarding his eligibility. Upon his graduation from high school, Brown appeared to be en route to the University of Miami to play running back for the Miami Hurricanes. This association never materialized because of Brown’s association with a recruiting service. Though not related to basketball per se, the question immediately arises as to if this unfortunate route could have been diverted had Brown been influenced or led bya strong mentor and coach in his high school.

While the specifics of the cases are interesting, the implied lack of information provided to Mr. Brown and Mr. Miles are an indictment of an entire culture that develops around athletes. At the very crux and beginning of this process could be the influences of the high school coaches who guided these young people and helped prepare them for this eventuality.

A contrarian view was provided by Aries, McCarthy, Salovey, and Banaji in their 2009 study of over 1,100 non-athletes and over 400 athletes at two northeastern U.S. colleges. A review of athletes entering these colleges indicated while many entered college with lower academic credentials than their purely academic counterparts, the athletes performed at the norm across the time span of a college career, meaning they more or less achieved the grades and success the over 1,100 non-athlete peers achieved, as measured by entry expectations. In brief, data gathered indicated athletes performed at a level during college that was commensurate with their entry ACT/SAT scores and high school grade point averages. The point reverts back to the information the student-athlete has when she enters college: A coach or some other mentorshould be prepared to provide the student-athlete with this type of information and to make the student-athlete aware of the expectation for academic performance at the collegiate level. The article did not raise the question or influence of the coach or mentor who could have prepared the students for the eventualities of the college experience.

In a study similar to Adler and Adler’s earlier (1985) study, Horton (2009) drew some interesting conclusions based on a national qualitative study of 17 junior college athletes. The application to this study is compelling. Horton highlighted a perception at the junior college level that coaches and administrators were important both in academics and athletics. He emphasized the need for strong involvement from the academic side to support the athletic side and summarized the perceptions of students regarding the importance of academics and the faculty apparatus for the junior college student. Many of the issues faced and related in earlier literature citations were related by the students in Horton’s (2009) study, undergirding the assumption that preparation is the key for success in the post high schoollearning environment.

Harrison et al. (2009) described the perceptions of 88 male and female athletes on what would happen to them academically at the collegiate level. The study predicted and data affirmed that females at the collegiate level performed more poorly after their academic and athletic identities were linked by personnel on the campus. The inferred interpretation is these students were probably unaware of the pressures from academia that would become realities at the college level above and beyond which they found at the high school level. Oftentimes, students can be put on pedestals as high school athletes and given a pass or not have to worry about performing at the high school level (Stevens, 2006).

Though negative inputs and things to be “aware” of have made up the review of literature to this point, it should be noted that the inputs provided by a coach can not only help a student-athlete avoid bad things, but it can help a student-athlete understand some things that will work to her advantage during the recruiting process. Harrison et al. (2009) conducted an investigation of issues related to the recruiting of high profile athletes which produced some remarkable results. Though the survey was primarily aimed at high profile, African American male athletes, data was collected that related to and is relevant to the recruiting of female athletes.

Harrison et al.’s (2009) study codified a perception that many have suspected or observed casually through the years, primarily that prized recruits are given ‘red carpet’ or preferential treatment in the recruiting process, especially when the athlete shows up on campus for an official or unofficial visit. While this may be true, the knowledge of this reality could be easily used to the advantage of the student-athlete who desires entry into a more high profile or exclusive college. Phillips (2009) also addressed this subject and found preferential treatment for student-athletes in Alabama.

The Recruitment Process: Potential for Confusion

Lopez (1998) described the complexities and intensities of the recruitment process in a 1998 feature entitled Full Court Press. The experiences of a small number of highly recruited athletes are explained and chronicled. The details of the complexities of being recruited incessantly were described in the article as almost a warning to the parents, students, and coaches who will be on the receiving end of the process. The article described massive volumes of letters, phone calls, and the presence of coaches and scouting directors at events during the summer after a junior year and during the athlete’s senior year.

Along these same lines, Klungseth (2005) crafted an article which summarized the five most important recruiting rules a high school coach should know. Though broad in nature and covering overall NCAA rules, it does provide important details for basketball coaches. The article provides a concise overview of information high school coaches should be appraised of with regards to propriety and legality (in terms of the NCAA) during the recruiting process. The five items, while seemingly “common sense”, have acute and subtle meanings and definitions within the parameters of the NCAA guidelines. The rules and their applicability are the types of things that coaches should be fully apprised of if the day arrives when they have a recruitable athlete at their high school. Specifically, the rules/areas of concern listedare (1) limits on phone calls and contacts; (2) representatives of athletic interests; (3) offers and inducements; (4) official visits; and (5) national letters of intent. Within each of the five areas, more specific, sport specific rules are outlined and delineated. Though the information is simple on the face, the overlapping nature of issues such as school year guidelines (i.e., what happens during a junior year versus a senior year) are spelled out, sport specific rules are delineated, and references to NCAA publications are also provided.

The information relayed in the article is critical, but the question the article raises is how broadly is this information disseminated? How many high school coaches across the nation and across the state are aware of these specifics? Do coaches know the ramifications of recruiting guideline violations? Are coaches prepared to guide students through this complicated process?

Necessity for Enhanced Training, Certification or Mentorship

A key component of the study is to determine whether additional training is necessary for coaches. Review of the literature found no direct recommendations or studies tied to this train of thought. However, some studies have been conducted which broadly address the need for training and certification.

Maetozo (1971) published a series of essays addressing the need for certification of high school and junior high school coaches. He addressed the issue from the perspective of the need for standards in hiring and employing coaches. Several conclusions were drawn regarding the necessity of bringing in qualified individuals to lead athletes, with the primary conclusion being that states should consider establishment of certification programs to ensure qualified and competent individuals are hired as coaches. Outlines were provided as recommendations for states to use in implementation and statements were made that “several states” had initiated the programs, but the states were not delineated. It should be noted that the college recruiting process was not mentioned whatsoever in this article. Also, no evidencewas available in reviewing literature that any national or cohesive state certification programs had been adopted.

Bloom, Durand-Bush, Schinke, and Salmela (1998) addressed the issue of mentoring across a wide girth of sports in the country. As with the Maetozo study, a broad brush was used in the approach, but general applicability can be drawn. The key issue of coaches mentoring athletes was addressed and at length, with conclusions drawn regarding the necessity and benefit for the athlete. Of note, however, was that the authors highlighted a possible need for formalized mentoring programs.

Deficiencies/Limitations in Literature

There appears to be a significant gap in both the research conducted and the scholarly articles published in the areas of demographics of college athletes. Deficiencies were also noted in the areas of characterizations and analyses of coaches. Searches were conducted to characterize and codify the experience levels of coaches across the nation, and little was found. We sought to analyze the level of involvement and mentoring done by coaches with experience levels of coaches being held as independent variable, but little was uncovered in the review of literature. Additionally, we sought to uncover data on knowledge of coaches regarding recruiting rules and entry requirements for college-bound athletes, but little was found.


The target and accessible population for this study was defined as all head coaches of girls’ basketball teams in Louisiana whose schools are members of the High School Athletic Association (HSAA). A random sample was drawn of head coaches of girls’ basketball teams in the state whose host/sponsor schools were members of the association in the Fall during the 2010-2011 academic school year. The minimum returned sample size (n = 119) was determined based on Cochran’s Sample Size Formula (Snedecor & Cochran, 1988). Since a return rate as low as 40% was anticipated, the sample size for the study was set at 224. No instrument which met the needs of the study could be located in the research literature; therefore, an instrument was developed by the research team that addressed the objectives of the study.Embedded within the instrument was an information inventory which measured coach perceptions and knowledge bases.


A multiple-phase approach was employed to collect data. The sample for the study was randomly selected from a master list of coaches in the state obtained from the state HSAA. The list consisted of coaches’ names, schools, physical mail addresses and electronic mail (email) addresses for each coach. We then proceeded with the pre-determined contact procedures. Two data collections letters with instruments were sent to the sample. For both mailed data collections, notification emails were transmitted to the sample by the research team as recommended by Kent and Turner (2003). Also in each instance, we sought and received the assistance of highly respected coaches who sent an e-mail message to all coaches in the research sample in which they endorsed the concept and encouraged participation in the project. In addition,in the second mailing, we included a single, dollar bill as an incentive and to incite additional attention to our survey packet on the part of potential respondents.

Personalized follow up phone calls to a random sample of non respondents were conducted to determine if the mail respondents were representative of the population as recommended by Gall, Gall, and Borg (2003). Twenty six (n=26) coaches in the random sample of 50 non-respondents returned the questionnaire. Independent samples t-tests were used to compare the means for key variables for the responses received during the telephone follow-up to those received by mail as recommended by Gall, Gall, and Borg (2003). No significant differences existed in the responses. Since no significant differences existed between the mail and telephone follow-up responses, it was concluded that the responses appeared to accurately represent the population of head girls’ high school basketball coaches in the state. The mail responses werecombined with the responses received as a result of the telephone follow-up for further analyses. The final response rate was 128 (57.14%) out of the 224 coaches in the random sample and this number exceeded the minimum of 119 responses required for the study.


In data related to the first research objective, we discovered the population of coaches in the surveyed state was generally white, male, educated, and experienced. Over half (56%) of the head coaches in the state were male, 72% were Caucasian, the average head coach had 8.5 years of experience as a head coach, 15.2 years as a coach and 14.9 years as a classroom teacher. Slightly over two-thirds of the coaches (64%) reported having a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education.

In the second objective, coaches in the state reported an average of 8.0 students during their career that had been recruited to play college basketball. We clarified the meaning of “being recruited” as a student-athlete receiving a letter, email, phone call or other direct interest by a NCAA or NAIA college or university. Further, the coaches reported 4.4 of their players having signed national letters of intent to play college basketball. Most of the coaches (76%) had at least one player who had been recruited during their career. However, only 25% of coaches reported having 10 or more players who had been recruited during the coaches’ career and 11% reported having 10 or more players who had signed national letters of intent to play at the collegiate level.

Of note was the relative scarcity of coaches having athletes who had been recruited. On the surface, one athlete per year who is recruited and each coach averages one every other year that signs a letter of intent or gains a scholarship, which seems like a fairly frequent occurrence. However, given the volume of students a teacher has in a classroom environment throughout the year or on a single or multiple sports teams, a single athlete every year or one every other year seems like a fairly rare occurrence.

In the third objective, the study also sought to describe the level of knowledge possessed by coaches regarding academic standards and requirements for entry into collegiate athletics in the two, primary playing organizations for collegiate basketball, the NCAA and NAIA (see Table 1). This was accomplished by administering a 10 question Information Inventory of basic entry and recruiting rules for athletes ascending into the two types of institutions. The mean score on the 10 question inventory was 5.52 (SD=1.88), suggesting the population of coaches in the state has some knowledge of entry and recruiting rules in the NCAA and NAIA, but gaps exist across the domain of institution types and playing levels. All items possessed strong item discrimination power according to the standards proposed by Bott (1996).

Over half of the coaches correctly answered questions related to the NCAA Division I entry and requirements. Responses indicated very strong understanding of ACT and grade point average requirements (81.3%) and a strong understanding of core curriculum requirements (64.8%). They also demonstrated a solid, consistent knowledge of recruiting and contact requirements and limitations (62.5% & 69.5%). The fact that all four questions directly related to Division I requirements had a majority of coaches answer correctly seems to indicate knowledge is more widely disseminated or there is more interest in those requirements than in other playing institutions.

Coaches were less familiar with Division II, Division III and NAIA requirements. For the three questions related to Division II, the participants correctly answered over 60% of the time for only one of the three questions and that instance was an overlapping question that was also applicable to Division I (types of communication that may not be used). In questions strictly dedicated to Division II, coaches answered correctly 32.8% of the time when asked about entry requirements (number of core courses required) and 56.3% of the time when asked about grade and ACT requirements. This deficiency was a stark drop off from the higher number of correct answers for questions related for Division I schools. Similar, if not more striking contrasts were drawn in certain areas related to Division III and NAIA requirements. Questionsrelated to Division III and NAIA recruiting rules registered responses as low as 21.9% and 30%.

The fourth objective sought to describe the coaches’ perceptions regarding their role in guiding and mentoring recruitable athletes under their tutelage (see Table 2). A four point, Likert-type scale was used to measure the coach’s perception of his role as a mentor to recruitable athletes. The Cronbach’s alpha for the scale was .88, which indicates the scale possessed extensive reliability (Robinson et al., 1991). Coaches gave their highest ratings to three questions: “I should be able to explain what it takes to become a recruitable athlete” (M = 3.74); “I should be a mentor to my recruitable players” (M = 3.71); and “I should assist my recruitable athletes in being prepared for the rigors of the college academic as well as athletic environment” (M = 3.56).Although the coaches still agreed with this item, the lowest rated item was “I should help recruitable athletes make wise life decisions such as choosing the correct college” (M = 3.713.22). Data related to this objective are found in Table 2.

The sixth objective was to measure perceptions with regard to whether new or additional training was considered necessary in terms of preparing or enhancing the coach’s knowledge base in recruiting related activities. As with the fifth objective, a Likert-type scale was used to measure the coach’s perception of whether new or enhanced training or certification would be beneficial to the coaches in general, to new coaches specifically, to the individual coach or to students in the coach’s school. The Cronbach’s alpha for the scale was .88, which indicates the scale possessed exemplary reliability (Robinson et al., 1991).

The coaches measured consistently in favor of enhanced training or certification in this section of the instrument. The coaches agreed with all five items in this scale. The lowest rated item was, “Additional certification or training requirements for high school coaches are necessary to ensure entry level coaches have the knowledge they need about the college recruiting process prior to entering a coaching position” (M = 2.86). All remaining questions registered above a 3.0 on the Likert-type scales. The intent of these questions was to assess what coaches believed regarding the necessity for training. The scale mean was M = 3.07 (SD =.57) which indicated that the coaches agreed that additional training was needed. Data from this objective are in Table 3.


The conclusions for this study apply only to high school girls’ basketball coaches in Louisiana.

Conclusions for Objective One: Coaches’ Characteristics

It is concluded the gender and ethnicity of the typical girls’ basketball coaches in the studied state are male and white, respectively. This conclusion is based on the finding that approximately 70% of girls’ basketball coaches are Caucasian and 56% are males. This conclusion is in contrast to the population in the State, where Caucasians (not including Hispanic origin) in the state was reported as 61% and African American as 32% in 2010, (United States Government, 2010). It is concluded coaches have the same level of education as their non-coaching, teacher counterparts. This conclusion is based on data gathered during the study and is consistent with State’s public statistics which indicate 35.9 percent of public school teachers in have a master’s degree or higher. Thirty-six percent of coachesin this survey reported having a degree above the bachelors level (MS, MS+30 or doctoral level).

It is concluded that female high school basketball players in the state are led by an experienced cadre of coaches. With an average of 15 years in the classroom, 15 years as a coach and nearly 9 years as a head coach, it is apparent that the state’s girls’ basketball players are coached by experienced personnel.

Conclusion for Objective Two: Athletes Who Were Recruited, Signed, or Accepted Scholarships

It is concluded that coaches routinely encounter recruitable athletes, but do not encounter an overwhelming number of athletes who are recruited or signed to become college basketball players. On average, a head coach has just under one student-athlete per year who receives recruiting interest from an NCAA or NAIA school, making this occurrence not rare, but also not a predominant action in the life of a coach. The figure of one student-athlete per year was derived by comparing the average number of players recruited (M = 8.59) to the characterization in Objective One in which it was revealed the average head coach in the state has been in his or her position for approximately nine years. This conclusion is in contrast to the analysis reported by the National High School Center (2009) which indicated that one in six schoolswill experience a scholarship type student-athlete on an annual basis. There is a deficiency of data concerning the average number of athletes that coaches have contact with who are recruited, sign letters of intent, or garner scholarships.

Conclusion for Objective Three: Knowledge of NCAA & NAIA Recruiting Rules.

It is concluded coaches have limited knowledge of recruiting rules and entry requirements among the four types of playing levels for recruitable athletes. This conclusion is based on the finding that the coaches test score was 52% (out of a possible 100%) on an Information Inventory which asked questions about NCAA Division I, II, III (NCAA, 2009a) and NAIA (NAIA, 2010) entry requirements and recruiting rules. This conclusion conflicts with the framework proposed by Kram (1985) which pre-supposes the mentor will possess a superior knowledge of key areas of importance to a mentee. The conclusion also is in contrast to the rules Klungseth (2005) cited as important for coaches.

Conclusion for Objective Four: Coach’s Role

It is concluded coaches believe they have a role across a range of responsibilities in terms of mentoring their recruitable athletes. This conclusion is supported by Jowett (2005) and Donohue et al. (2007) who found that the relationship between the athlete and the coach during the recruiting process is critical. On the Likert-type scale used in this portion of the research study, the respondents registered their highest collective score, 3.72 out of 4.0, strongly agreeing their roles as mentors were real, important and wide ranging. Of concern: It is illuminating to compare the acknowledgment for an across the board need and benefit for new training with the relatively poor results achieved by the coaches in the Information Inventory. It is also encouraging to compare this eagerness for training with the resolute agreementamong coaches regarding their roles as mentors.

Conclusion for Objective Five: Expectations Regarding Collegiate Environment

It is concluded coaches believe treatment for athletes at the collegiate level will be composed of both mildly negative treatment and mildly positive preferential treatment. This conclusion is based on the finding that coaches believe athletes will face both negative stigmas (2.61 on 4.0 Likert-type scale) and encounter positive preferential treatment (2.52 on 4.0 Likert-type scale) while in college, simply because they are athletes. The coaches indicated an understanding that the environment an athlete will face will have inequities and athletes could face both positive and negative treatments. This finding is consistent with and illustrative of the cases of Nat Miles (Thamel, 2011) and Bryce Brown (Evans and Thamel), both athletes whose lives took unfortunate turns because they were probably not well informed of collegiateexpectations. While coaches were consistent in their views on this topic; there were no strong positive or negative feelings on the topic.

Conclusion for Objective Six: Necessity for Additional Training for the State’s High School Basketball Coaches

It is concluded coaches believe additional training for themselves and their peers is necessary and this training would benefit both coaches and athletes. This conclusion was based on the concurrence provided by the coaches (3.07 on 4.0 Likert-type scale) in the research indicating the need for additional training for themselves, their peers and the benefit training would provide their schools and athletes. The coaches indicated a belief that additional training or certification would be beneficial for themselves, their peers and recruitable athletes. In the strongest level of concurrence within this objective (3.27 out of 4.0) the coaches indicated a belief that all coaches would benefit by additional training and certification, indicating a consistency across the population that this was necessary. The weakest level ofconcurrence (2.86 out of 4.0) was related to the question of whether or not training was needed for entry-level coaches. This conclusion was consistent with Maetozo’s (1971) and Bloom et al.’s (1998), recommendations and discussions of the need for training and certification.


Coaches were the primary focus of this research, and data in this report should be illuminating to them. The information should also be applicable to athletic directors and to HSAAs that administer state-wide programs. It is apparent that HSAAs should examine the necessity for an enhanced training or certification program for girls’ high school basketball coaches. Several key facts established in the study merged to drive this recommendation. First of all, coaches registered solid concurrence that: (A) They believe their roles as mentors are important; and (B) They believe additional training would be beneficial to themselves, their peers and their students. These two facts, standing alone, indicate both recognition of the critical role of the coach and a self-reflection regarding a necessity for self and communityimprovement.

Secondly, results from the Information Inventory indicate a deficiency in the knowledge base of recruiting rules and requirements. No evidence or literature was found which provided an indication coaches have any formal training on the recruiting rules and entry requirements for athletes who play basketball in the NCAA or NAIA. The researchers recommend additional training or certification could be in order for the population of coaches and that this training could result in benefits for girls’ basketball players.

Even though coaches expressed the need for additional training or certification, a concern exists regarding the apparently low number of athletes who signed national letters of intent or garnered scholarships. On average, a coach has one athlete each year that is the subject of recruiting attention and has one who receives a scholarship or signs a national letter of intent every other year. With figures this low, the question to be posed is whether additional training is truly merited to enhance or potentially help such a small number of athletes. Though the coaches believe additional training would be beneficial, a cost-benefit analysis would have to be made to determine the utility of such a new program or mandate.

It is recommended the knowledge base of all coaches throughout the state be assessed, with possible expansion to coaches across the south or the country. Though this study was focused on girls’ basketball coaches, the entire population of coaches in the state may benefit from additional training or certification. The snap shot of coaches in one sport indicates a possible deficiency in knowledge but a willingness to learn and recognition that more training could be valuable. The existence of this limitation in one sport in a Southern state could be a clarion reminder that many student-athletes are not getting the information or, more importantly, the mentoring they need to ascend to a higher level of education and thus a better life.




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Table 1.  Correct Responses to the Head Girls’ Basketball Coaches Information Inventory

Test item Correct responses
  n %
In order for an athlete to be ruled eligible for NCAA Division I athletics immediately after high school, the athlete must achieve the following: Answer Choices:
A: An ACT score of 18
B: Graduate w/a GPA of 3.5 on 4.0 scale
C: Have combination GPA & ACT on “Sliding Scale”
D: Have a GPA of at least 3.0 and in top 45% of graduating class



Which of the following institution types does not offer athletic scholarships? a Answer Choices:
B: NCAA Division III
C: NCAA Division II
D: NCAA Division I



The type of communication that may not be used by an NCAA coach to communicate with a recruitable athlete is: Answer Choices:
A: Texting
B: Email
C: Land line phone calls
D: Cell phone calls



How many core courses does the NCAA require an athlete to complete prior to entering any Division I college or university? Answer Choices:
A: 12
B: 14
C: 15
D: 16



According to NCAA recruiting calendar, the first time a Division I NCAA women’s basketball coach may place a telephone call to a recruitable athlete is:  Answer Choices:
A: At the end of athlete’s junior year
B: At the end of athlete’s sophomore year
C: At the end of the athlete’s senior year
D: Never



In order for an athlete to be ruled eligible at a NAIA institution, the athlete must achieve the following.  Answer Choices:
A: A minimum ACT score of 21
B: A minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale
C: Meet 2 of 3 minimum standards in 3 broad categories
D: Have minimum GPA of 2.0 and minimum ACT sum score of 68



In order for an athlete to be ruled eligible for NCAA Division II athletics immediately after high school, the athlete must achieve the following:  Answer Choices:
A: A minimum ACT score of 18
B: GPA of at least 3.5 on 4.0 scale
C: Have combination of minimum GPA and class ranking
D: Have minimum GPA and a minimum sum score of 68



How many core courses does the NCAA require an athlete to complete prior to entering any Division II college or university?   Answer Choices:
A: 12
B: 14
C: 15
D: 16



Which statement below describes contact rules for NCAA Division III coaches in terms of making direct contact with recruitable high school athletes? Answer Choices:
A: There are no restrictions
B: Contact may be initiated prior to the end of the sophomore year
C: Contact may only be initiated by prospective student
D: Contact in prohibited



A recruitable high school athlete may sign a Letter of Intent to play for an NAIA institution: Answer Choices:
A: At any time
B: After the student’s junior year
C: Only during the student’s senior year
D: Only after the student’s senior year



Note. For the Information Inventory:  M=5.52, SD=1.88, N=127.  Correct answer choices are bolded and underlined.
aOf the 36 coaches who answered this question incorrectly, 34 identified the NAIA as being the type of institution which does not offer athletic scholarships, which was incorrect.

Table 2.    Coaches’ Perceptions of Their Role as the Head Girls’ Basketball Coach for Recruitable Athletes

Statement’s about coaches’ role





I should be able to explain to an athlete what is required to become a recruitable athlete




Strongly agree

I should be a mentor to my recruitable players.




Strongly agree

I should assist my recruitable athletes in being prepared for the rigors of the college academic as well as athletic environment?




Strongly agree

I should assist my recruitable athletes in preparing for the pressures of collegiate athletics?





I should assist my recruitable athletes in marketing themselves (e.g., send out letters of endorsement, make video highlights, etc.).





I should help recruitable athletes make wise life decisions such as choosing the correct college





Coach’s Role Scale:




Strongly agree

Note. Scale ranged from 1 = “Strongly Disagree” to 4 = “Strongly Agree.  Alpha = .79.

Table 3.    Need for Additional Training on Collegiate Athletic Recruitment Rules

Coaches believed





Additional training for high school coaches is necessary to ensure coaches stay up-to-date on current college recruiting rules/regulations/trends.  128




I would benefit from an additional training program for coaches that would keep you up to date on college recruiting rules/regulations/trends.  128




Athletes in my school would benefit from a training program that would keep coaches up to date on college recruiting rules/regulations/trends.  128




My school would benefit from an additional training program to keep coaches up to date on college recruiting rules/regulations/trends.  128




Additional certification or training requirements for high school coaches are necessary to ensure entry level coaches have the knowledge they need about the college recruiting process prior to entering a coaching position.  128




Necessity for Additional Training scale:





Note. Scale ranged from 1 = “Strongly Disagree” to 4 = “Strongly Agree.  Alpha = .88.

2016-10-20T15:12:00-05:00November 21st, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology, Women and Sports|Comments Off on The Mentoring Role of High School Girls’ Basketball Coaches in the Collegiate Recruiting Process

Black Coaches Trying to Make It in a White-Dominated Industry: College Football and the Racial Divide


Sport participation among Black student-athletes has steadily increased throughout the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) over the last two decades. The number of Black head coaches in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) College Football, however, has remained stagnant and in many years declined (18). Research has stated that the presence of a defined glass ceiling, discrepancies among Blacks and Whites with regard to social capital (social mobility), and factors of intent and interest in becoming coaches have been integral in preventing many Black coaches from pursuing positions as head coaches in college football. Through the use of narrative, this research contributed to the scholarship in this area by providing anecdotal evidence that hurdles still exist for Black coaches, but changes are also occurring that statistics may not reflect. The story of Charlie Friemont, a graduate assistant aspiring to become a college head coach, demonstrates how the aforementioned factors impact his career choices. Many of his experiences align with the previous literature and have impacted him both negatively and positively in his career pursuits. In addition, Charlie’s story introduces a new factor that may impact the trends of this issue in college football.


Charlie Friemont entered the football offices at State University (SU) with strong, brisk strides wearing neatly pleated dress pants, a well pressed polo shirt tucked into his slacks, and a leather-bound notebook under his arm. He shook hands with a firm grip and sat cross-legged across a small table in the running backs’ office. As he sat back in his chair, he smiled and gestured that he was ready to begin the interview. Charlie was an enthusiastic and confident graduate assistant with the SU’s football team. In the spring of 2011, he was in the midst of his first season of spring practices at SU, working with the offense and special teams. During the busy in-season period, 16 to 18 hour workdays were routine. In addition to his football responsibilities, Charlie juggled the rigors of a demanding master’s program that was a requirement of his position. Charlie, a former student-athlete, was one of 6,178 Black student-athletes competing in football at an National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school in the fall of 2003 (29). That same season there were only four Black head football coaches in all of the FBS, accounting for 3.3% of the population (18). Charlie, admittedly, was pursuing a career in an industry that has been dominated by White males (28).

After finishing an undergraduate degree in Media Arts, Charlie accepted a position at a large sports television broadcasting company in the northeast. It was his exposure to certain media practices, specifically a diverted attention to players’ personas rather than their on-field accomplishments, which inspired him to consider an alternative vocational option. “It was getting away from what the guy was doing on the field to more personalizing the athlete,” Charlie explained. “It was always who’s getting in trouble? Who’s making mistakes off the field? Who’s making a fool of themselves on the field?” Inspired to help student-athletes, Charlie left media to begin a career in college football coaching.

Like other Black coaches before him, Charlie immediately faced stereotypes that would impede his progress toward his ultimate goal of becoming an offensive coordinator. According to Lapchick (19), of the 266 possible offensive or defensive coordinator positions in the FBS, only 30 were held by Black coaches. Ironically, one year prior to Charlie embarking on his high school playing career in the spring of 1993, Anderson (1) published a study that would, unbeknownst to Charlie, forecast his college playing career and eventually his coaching aspirations. The study found that Black athletes were often moved to subordinate, or non-central, positions like running back or wide receiver in favor of their White counterparts who were cast in leadership roles such as quarterback and offensive line (1). At his undergraduate institution, Charlie’s coach noticed “he runs around a lot, so he has great feet” and moved him from quarterback, the position he played throughout high school, to running back, a position he had never played before. Anderson (1) further noted that former quarterbacks and offensive linemen were more likely to obtain assistant coaching jobs at those same positions upon entering the profession, which was viewed as a “pipeline” to a coordinator position. Over a decade and a half afterwards, Finch, McDowell, and Sagas (10) asserted a similar position. As Charlie came onto campus as an aspiring coach years later, he was approached about what position he preferred to coach and was told, “You want to be a coach? What position did you play? ‘Well, I played running back because I didn’tget a chance to play quarterback.’ Now you’re the running backs coach.” Once again, Charlie was pigeonholed.

This examination proposed that a glass ceiling, perpetuated by hiring practices influenced by tradition and racial discrimination, has inhibited increased diversity among coaching staffs within the FBS. Specifically, this article demonstrated the impact stereotypes have had in shaping the perceptions and experiences of an aspiring Black coach who was pursuing a position in the coaching industry. The purpose of this study was to analyze those perceptions and apply the findings to a better understanding of obstacles similar aspirant Black collegiate football coaches face.


According to the NCAA Student-Athlete Ethnicity Report (29), Black participation percentages in all divisions of the NCAA increased from 1999-00 to 2008-09. It is within the revenue-generating sports of football and men’s basketball where Black student-athlete representation is highest and has helped drive the increase in overall percentages. In 2008, 47% (6,644) of the participants in FBS football were Black, which was more than two percent more than their White counterparts (44.8%) (29). Although a higher percentage of Black participants existed, the total number of Black head coaches at FBS schools at the end of 2008 was seven (20). At the end of the 2010 football season, 16 Black (2 additional minority) head coaches held the head coach position at FBS schools, which was a historical high-water mark for the NCAA,but was still only 15% (19).

Much of the literature determined racial stereotyping and discriminatory hiring practices as the determinant to the distinct discrepancy in the percentage of Black participants to the percentage of Black head coaches in the NCAA (1, 5, 7, 10, 22, 24). Among the stereotypes presented by scholars, intellectual inferiority, athletic superiority, professional ineptitude, and temperament pervaded as Black coaches continued to struggle to obtain central coaching positions (26).

Glass Ceiling

The concept of a glass ceiling, as it pertains to this topic, refers to artificial barriers that preclude persons without power (i.e., minorities, women) from advancing into managerial positions (5). Treatment discrimination is a functional effect of the glass ceiling and has contributed to job dissatisfaction among subgroups (24). Essentially, inferior parties, in this case Black coaches, become disenchanted with the profession because of sustained mistreatment and a defined cap on hierarchal success. In some scenarios participants would no longer view the activity as enjoyable and the resulting loss of interest would be termed “burnout” (3). Literature suggested that the perception of a glass ceiling and subsequent job discontent created greater turnover, which negatively impacted organizational loyalty and job involvement (5). A comparatively smaller frequency of achievement subsequently hindered the foundation of strong Black networks that was already present among White coaches.

As central decision-makers, head coaches in intercollegiate athletics, specifically football, normally made hiring decisions for assistant coaching vacancies on their staff (6). It was those same assistant coaches that eventually provided a viable pool of candidates for open head coaching positions at other institutions or at the current school (1, 10, 25). The inference can then be made that if Black coaches are not being hired in leadership positions, they do not have the opportunity to hire other minority assistant coaches, thus creating a glass ceiling due to institutional racism (24).

Some scholars believed that institutional racism was a derivative of homologous reproduction, which is stated as the propensity of members of a leadership group to hire and promote within similar social and physical characteristics of themselves (15). Kanter (15), Knoppers (16), and later Mullane and Whisenant (22) tested homologous reproduction as it related to race and gender in the workplace. Cunningham and Sagas (6) argued that this theory contributed to racial inequity in intercollegiate athletics. In all of the studies except for Mullane and Whisenant (22), homologous reproduction was found to have significant influence on hiring practices (6, 15, 16). Cunningham and Sagas (6) stated the hypotheses that White head coaches hired predominantly White assistant coaches and Black head coaches, accordingly, hired primarily Black assistant coaches was statistically relevant. It could then be inferred that those that hold leadership positions, and subsequently make hiring decisions, influence the demographical makeup of a coaching staff.

Fink, Pastore, and Riemer (11) described the majority leadership network in intercollegiate athletics as “white, Protestant, able-bodied, heterosexual males” (p. 13). Employees that did not possess similar characteristics were a much smaller subgroup and often experienced negative work experience (5, 11). This dynamic allowed the authoritative group, in this case White males, to assert control. In the case of Black coaches, the glass ceiling acted as an inhibitor in career ascension due to the lack of upward mobility in the coaching ranks and the cyclical affect perpetuating the phenomenon. Ultimately the glass ceiling has profoundly impacted the coaching landscape in college football.

Social Mobility

Sartore and Cunningham (26) stated, “membership does indeed have its privileges, individuals not belonging to this network will not reap many associated benefits like information exchange, challenging work tasks, promotion, etc” (p. 72). The above stated referred to social mobility, which is described as an alteration in social standing that involves amendments to social environment and life conditions (27). Sport participation has facilitated this movement among select Black student-athletes, creating an upward mobility for a concentrated group of participants in revenue-generating sports (27). The reality is, however, that Blacks faced sport segregation through the 1950s, which inhibited high participation percentages in many sports (3). Coakley (3) further noted that Blacks participated in a small range of sports, but because those sports were notable in the United States, the under representation of minorities went unnoticed. In essence, the lack of an established administrative network has prevented Black coaches from obtaining leadership positions based on race. The challenge that was once related to participation has, in part, subsided, but has remained for Black coaches and administrators.

A contributing concept to social mobility is social capital theory, which Day and McDonald (9) defined as “resources embedded in networks” (p. 138). The authors argued that Black coaches received greater benefit than White coaches in utilizing social capital, provided they extended their network to include other White coaches and administrators (9). However, some scholars determined that Black coaches did not share the same benefit of social capital as White coaches (25). One causative factor to this has been the prevalence of “stacking”, which is stated as the migration of Black participants into non-central positions, while White participants occupy the majority of leadership positions (12). Elements of stacking, such as discriminatory hiring practices and racial stereotyping, were found to be some of the determining factors that impeded career ascension for minorities (25, 26). Stacking, as a practice, has contributed to this issue due to the collection of networking opportunities allowed to student-athletes participating in central positions. Social capital is accumulated through, not only participation, but participation in integral positions (8). Though social capital was a principle cause to career immobility among Black coaches (25), discrimination and furthered adherence to stereotypes created a prominent limitation for mobility among Black coaches (5, 13-14). In effect, Black coaches have struggled to infiltrate the White dominated field of coaching, which has prevented them from founding a social network that ultimately assists in job placement and ascension.

Intent and Interest

Cunningham, Sagas, and Ashley (7) examined the effects of affective commitment, dealing with the function of wanting to do a task as it related to occupational commitment. Coaches that have high affective commitment in coaching subsequently have less intention of leaving the profession (7). Cunningham (5) noted that only 1/3 (N = 93) of the Black student-athletes he examined in 2003 had interest in becoming a college coach. However, intent and interest are certainly related but they are not the same (5). Brown and Lent’s (2) examination of social cognitive framework delineated interest as an affinity toward an area. Conversely, Cunningham (5) noted that intent was a purposeful pursuit of, in this case, an occupation in coaching. The difference was seen in the number of Black student-athletes that pursued careers in coaching. Those student-athletes that entered the industry had high intent and interest in coaching. However, those who stated they were interested in becoming a coach but chose a different profession may have had high interest, but ultimately had low intent (5).

The examination of intent and interest is vital for two primary reasons. First, it brings to light the possibility that Black student-athletes are discouraged from entering the profession due to the prior knowledge of discriminatory hiring practices. Secondly, demonstrating intent validates interest as student-athletes consider possible career choices post-participation, which is especially important when measuring perception. According to Cunningham (5), Black student-athletes were aware of the differences in racial percentages among coaches and those disparities negatively impacted the intent and interest of these student-athletes in pursuing coaching positions.

Conceptual Framework

Finch, McDowell, and Sagas (10) expanded on Anderson’s (1) delineation of the dynamics of coaches progressing through the hierarchy of the industry. They noted that assistant coaches provided the most viable pool of head coaching candidates and, more specifically, particular coaching positions present expedited ascension to higher coaching jobs. For example, a quarterback or linebacker coach would receive preference for a vacant offensive or defensive coordinator position over another position coach like running backs or defensive backs coach. Offensive and defensive coordinators are then generally viewed as the prerequisite positions to becoming a head coach. Black coaches have been traditionally underrepresented in these secondary roles, which has limited their ability to ascend through the ranks. This concept is referred to as institutionalized racial discrimination (1, 10).

Expounding upon these assertions, this study incorporated Sagas and Cunningham’s (25) conceptual framework, which expanded on Anderson’s (1) initial findings to outline career success, human and social capital, and discrimination based explanations for the lack of minority representation among football coaches. The concept of career success is best viewed for the purposes of this study as hierarchal, extrinsic, and intrinsic success within the coaching profession. Black coaches were essentially failing to achieve success reaching a desired level of coaching or were not benefiting from their participation intrinsically or extrinsically, so they left the profession. Human capital theory refers to the educational, experiential, and opportunity based resources available to coaches. The social capital theory details the accessible network built on personal relationships. Both theories are derivatives of opportunity, or lack thereof, that coaches utilize to attain better jobs. Lastly, discriminatory explanations simply provide examples of practices that have contributed to racial inequity. The application of these ideologies influenced the understanding of the elements involved in discriminatory hiring, but also gave weight to the perceptions of an aspiring coach that was in the midst of the process.


The narrative of Charlie Friemont is a glimpse into the social reality of college football coaching, which through story inform us of a greater meaning (18). This method was chosen to allow the reader to put Charlie’s experiences with coaching into historical context. Narrative gave the researcher the opportunity to explore the axiomatic discourse of this culture and shed light on an individual’s perception of this ongoing issue (23). Previous inquiry on this topic has been predominantly quantitative (1, 10, 25-26) and scholars that have extensively examined race in coaching suggested more qualitative exploration in this area (25). Narrative was chosen as the most appropriate method to capture the individual experiences of a person heavily invested in this topic (4), in this case Charlie Friemont. This study should be viewed as an individual’s confrontation with inequality and a starting point for furthered understanding about how it has shaped the coaching industry. As Merriam (21) suggested, “Stories are how we make sense of our experiences, how we communicate with others, and through which we understand the world around us” (p. 32).


State University (SU) is a perennial top 25 program in the country and has produced numerous professional athletes, both White and Black. The football team is a member of a highly competitive conference in the Southeastern United States. Charlie is in his first season as a graduate assistant with SU’s football team. He is a Black male that previously played the sport at another FBS school. He acknowledged that coaching is his career goal and has been involved in the profession at the graduate assistant level at multiple institutions. At the time of this inquiry, Charlie was the only Black graduate assistant working with the football staff. His experience participating in college football, as well as pursuing a full-time coaching position rendered his opinions of the current landscape of Black coaches in the FBS relevant.

Data Collection

Data was collected during four individual interviews conducted by the researcher over a two week period in the spring. Additionally, one field observation was made at State University spring football practice and another at a team scrimmage. The first two interviews were one-hour in length. Two additional 45-minute interviews were conducted during the football team’s spring practice. Each of the interviews was conducted in Charlie’s office. Observations of Charlie’s interactions with coaches and student-athletes were conducted over the course of a half hour each. Field notes were taken and recorded onto a Microsoft Word file. The interviews were recorded with an audio recording device and were also transcribed onto a Microsoft Word file.

Data Analysis

The transcribed interviews and field notes were coded and analyzed by method of meaning condensation. Meaning condensation requires “an abridgement of the meanings expressed by the interviewee into shorter formulations” (17, p. 205). The transcripts of the interviews were preliminarily reviewed by the researcher allowing for initial assignment of themes. Passages were then drawn from the data and given more abbreviated categorical designations related to the aforementioned themes. Finally, the researcher reviewed the entirety of the data and aligned meanings to the concepts.


Several steps were taken to ensure reliability in the data. An extensive review of the literature pertaining to the topic was performed prior to data collection. Multiple interviews were conducted with Charlie, which established both a working rapport and a detailed view of his professional setting. Detailed field notes and observations were also assembled by the researcher to further triangulate the data. Extensive efforts were made to thoroughly document and appropriately handle the data collection process. A precise audit trail was used to maintain the integrity of the research. Names and implicating information were omitted to make certain participant confidentiality was maintained. Member checking was also performed as Charlie reviewed the manuscript before it was submitted for publication.


During this investigation with Charlie, State University (SU) hired a Black head coach for its basketball program. Basketball, the only other revenue-generating sport in the NCAA, has similarly lacked diversity among its head coaches. Charlie, sharing his reaction to the news of the new coach, gave a guarded response. “I think it speaks volumes to saying that we’re giving [Basketball Coach] an opportunity, but he doesn’t even know what the opportunity is, much less do we.” Charlie sits back in his chair, folding his arms and a wry smile comes across his face as he adds, “I think it would be probably unheard of to have a 33 year old African-American head [football] coach at [State University].” There is undoubtedly an understanding of the challenges he faces in pursuing his goals ofbecoming an offensive coordinator. The obstacles, he acknowledges, are no different than those of other aspiring coaches, except the consideration of the stereotypes associated with race. “The stereotypes just tend to keep showing up and there’s not a lot of progressive thinking going on.” Charlie’s insight into the factors deterring Black coaches from entering and sustaining positions within the coaching profession rendered three themes perceptions of racial discrimination, persistence of an elitist fraternity, and burnout. Additionally, a fourth theme emerged that may indicate a shift in the trends associated with the aforementioned factors. The theme is titled positivity and new success.

Perceptions of Racial Discrimination

During his college playing career, Charlie was persuaded to switch from quarterback, the position he played in high school, to wide receiver and eventually running back. “He should be an athlete that we can move to receiver or running back or safety,” he recalls of the general sentiment coaches had of him and other athletic, Black quarterbacks. He reveals that his perception of the stereotype of Black student-athletes was that Black players were often too versatile athletically. Their athleticism allowed coaches to decentralize these student-athletes and insert their White counterparts into those desired positions like quarterback. He went on to draw parallels within coaching as well. “A lot of the stereotypes go back to the same stereotypes that coaches get.” Charlie elaborates, “Exceptionally talented [Black] quarterbacks in high school that have to run the system that their high school coach teaches him. They don’t get the opportunity to learn, so he’s labeled as he can’t learn this.” Sitting back in his chair, Charlie continues to talk about the way Black coaches are labeled as unable to learn. Basically, they have never been exposed to certain systems or styles of play. If they are not privy to the knowledge, it is exceptionally challenging to try to learn from decentralized positions.

The position of quarterback is often deemed the face of the football program. His belief is that most institutions would prefer the traditional model of a statuesque White quarterback that aligned with societal ideals. Although Charlie concedes that size was the principal factor preventing him from playing quarterback, he notes that other Black student-athletes encountered additional barriers. “Young men culturally express themselves different by the way they look, their hair, the artwork on their bodies; the tattoos. Do you want that to be the face of your program?” In his opinion, cultural expressions often caused Black student-athletes to be exiled to positions outside of the public eye in concurrence with the institution’s preferred message.

Charlie’s move from quarterback to wide receiver and running back is evidence that the concept of stacking impacted his career. Admittedly though, he was skeptical about its impact on his particular situation. “It’s all a fraternity and it’s all about who you know and the opinions of who you know are going to come from people you trust. I think it’s about the product that you put on the field.” Some of Charlie’s objection to this theory involves the evolution of coaching and how Black coaches relate to Black student-athletes. As more coaches are able to move into leadership positions, the more difficult it is to state stacking is prevalent in college football. “Coaches have been conscious of not trying to stack because of the appearance of when you’re going torecruit,” Charlie says. “If you’re going to walk into a Black family’s house and they say ‘Hey, who’s on your staff? Where’s the Black coach down here to relate to my son?’ It would look a little odd.” Black student-athletes are aware of the makeup of the coaching staff and it is Charlie’s belief that if there was an unbalance it would be evident.

Throughout Charlie’s playing career he endured countless injuries that often kept him off of the field. The circumstances that led to him being unable to compete also allowed him to dedicate time to studying the game and assist with various aspects of coaching. It was during these occasions that Charlie discovered the dynamic of the student-athlete/coach relationship, which was regularly impacted by race. He found that student-athletes related to coaches differently. Certain student-athletes felt more comfortable with specific coaches and that connection, or in some cases disconnect, was generally motivated by race. “Different styles of coaches influence players in different ways,” explained Charlie. “There has been, for a long time, a cookie cutter image of a coach. Players look at it like, ‘ahcoach, man, he’s kind of weird, he’s not cool, he doesn’t relate to us.’” Black student-athletes could relate to Black coaches, but there was usually a detachment from the White coaches on staff, who predominantly held the head coaching or coordinator positions.

As Charlie sat and discussed the imbalance of Black head coaches that held positions in college football, he rhetorically assessed the current landscape of Black offensive coordinators or even quarterbacks coaches, at any level. The room deafening with silence, Charlie was sitting in his chair pondering the answer to his own question. He paused, shook his head and finally gave a response, “I can’t. I can’t even think of any.” Even Charlie, a current coach, could not name one Black offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach in either the National Football League (NFL) or college football. “The stereotypes just tend to keep showing up and there’s not a lot of progressive thinking going on.” As a Black man that is aspiring to become an offensive coordinator, these are the challenges Charlie is faced with.


Charlie’s dad was his football coach in Little League, but nobody in Charlie’s family had ever coached in major college football prior to his attempts to break into the industry. In some respects, coaching is viewed as a family business and those fortunate to have relatives that have been successful in coaching, open doors for younger generations looking to get into the business. Charlie does not have that luxury, but has taken note of the landscape of the industry.

Head coaches become head coaches because they’re in an elite group. There’s an elite status with being a head coach. And I think to back it up a little bit further, to get into the game of coaching, it’s like any other type of fraternity, there’s ways that you can get in, but normally it’s seen as a grandfathered type of system. And with America and the way that it was built, of course it would be dominated by the White male.

Tradition, more specifically a practice of doing things a certain way because that is the way that it has always been done, has quietly manipulated the system. Key contributors to the perpetuity, Charlie believes, are institution’s sports boosters. Boosters, who are financial contributors to an institution’s athletic department, will safeguard their investments by exercising their influence on the program. Similar to the quarterback representing the face of the program, a head coach can and often will act in that same role on a larger scale. The universities and colleges, who are desperate for financial backing, will work diligently to accommodate the expectations of their wealthy supporters. “Your boosters are always going to have an influence. When you’re speaking about those people, they have their own elite fraternities and the familiar faces in those elite fraternities aren’t minorities.” Affluent boosters are predominantly older White males and, similar to the above mentioned student-athletes, relate to coaches with similar backgrounds.

Another concept that Charlie introduces to the fraternity establishment is what he refers to as the “tree concept.” Essentially, the tree concept is a coaching lineage that binds coaches with other coach’s successes or failures. In other words, if Charlie spends four seasons working under one head coach, he will then take on, in many respects, the reputation of that coach. For instance, if State University wins a national championship this year in football, Charlie will be seen as a commodity because he coached on a staff that experienced the highest level of success. Conversely, if the head coach is found to have violated several NCAA bylaws and has a reputation of attracting negative attention, Charlie will be stigmatized by the coach’s characterization.

What we’re dealing with now and the topic that we’re on is all about opportunity. It’s all association in this game and it’s who’ve you aligned yourself with and who you’ve had the opportunity to work with that somehow deems that you’ll be successful at some point. The perception from the periphery, the media, the fans and all that is basically going to say, were you with someone successful or were you not?

Charlie uses the “Bill Belichek tree” to reinforce this statement. As head coach of the New England Patriots, Belichek has produced a number of coaches that have gone on to take coaching jobs in the NCAA and elsewhere in the NFL. The perception is that these coaches have a certain pedigree for success and will bring that same success to their new organization. He then pauses and says, “We’re just starting to see it now with Tony Dungy and the slew of people that have come from him and where he’s come from.” Dungy was the first Black head coach to win a Super Bowl and has been given credit for starting his own coaching tree, which consists of other Black coaches such as Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears), and Jim Caldwell (former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts). He admits that it is progress, but the Black coaching trees are still in their infancy.


Coakley (3) defined burnout as the point that “stress becomes so high and fun declines so much that a person decides to withdraw from a role or activity” (p. 644). Scheduling a time to meet with Charlie was not an easy task during spring football practices. The only time the interviews could be conducted was during lunch time on Fridays. Each time Charlie arrived for an interview, he would be hustling out of a staff meeting eager to move onto the next thing in his day. “You would think, with the hours we work, we were actually curing cancer,” Charlie quipped. In the spring he worked 16 to 18 hour days, which he admitted could have been longer if it was not necessary for him to sleep. Unlike the rest of the coaches on the staff, except for the only other coaching graduate assistant, Charlie also has togo to school during the week. Part of the responsibilities of being a graduate assistant was working toward obtaining a master’s degree in exchange for tuition reimbursement and a position on the football coaching staff. Charlie confessed, “You can’t cheat the work by any means.” In both arenas, school and coaching, his production is readily exposed and he must be diligent in both to sustain his position.

In the spring of 2010, Charlie left his previous graduate assistant position to take the graduate assistantship at State University. Including his playing career, the coach at SU was his fourth head coach that he worked under and he willingly admitted that the turnover affected his production. He referred to the language of the game and the demand to master the language so that the entire staff could remain cohesive on the field. “Football has a language of its own and it changes on every different staff. So, breaking that barrier of language is just like the English language.” Charlie was working with the offense and he praised the efforts of his offensive coordinator for his diligence in bringing the entire staff along at the same pace. He also underscored the necessity of adapting to a new staff. He does,however, warn that at other schools, coordinators, and even head coaches can be guarded with assisting other coaches.

You’re limited in what you know because of what you’re exposed to. That’s the challenge. I think our offensive staff does a really good job of being vocal and everyone is exposed to what our quarterback sees. We talk a lot about throwing mechanics and things like that. Our coordinator does a really good job of that. I can’t really say that we promote pigeonholing knowledge to everyone on the staff here. You know, I think a lot of staffs do.

Working towards a master’s degree, learning his fourth “language”, trying to climb up the coaching ladder, and all the other salient responsibilities were part of Charlie’s everyday life. “There have been plenty of coaches that have jumped into coaching and are out of it in a year or two.” He continued, “A lot of it’s just accepting coaching football. It’s some intense, long hours and it’s not for everybody.”

Most student-athletes, once they have exhausted their eligibility, will have played the sport of football for nearly 18 years. Charlie started playing football when he was five years old. Early on in his life he made a conscious decision to dedicate a majority of his time to learning the game and maximizing his opportunities to participate in whatever capacity he could. “You have to think, you finish playing football at 22-23 years old, that’s 18 years that you’ve invested in a game.” Charlie’s enthusiasm for the game is evident in his passionate tones and his drive to be successful. However, participating as a coach is not the same as participating as a player, which is a struggle for some former student-athletes who are looking to become coaches. “If you were 18 years of investing in Nuclear Science, when you finish college, ‘hey what do you want to do? Go play football? No.’ You want to go into Nuclear Science.” In effect, these coaches have further pigeonholed themselves into this profession, which has been a factor in burnout.

Positivity/New Success

In the researcher’s findings, a notable fourth category emerged with Charlie that separates from the previous literature. As mentioned before, Charlie was relentlessly enthusiastic about anything that dealt with football and coaching. This final theme is attributed to the positivity, persistence, and hope for change engrossing Charlie that will, in his mind, revolutionize the coaching profession.

When Charlie left media to enter the coaching ranks, he did so because he saw a growing misrepresentation of student-athletes, especially Black student-athletes, in the media. He saw how television highlight shows and radio talk shows would primarily focus on the persona of an athlete rather than the accomplishments of the athlete on the field. He wanted to prevent student-athletes from providing media outlets with damaging material to broadcast from the ground level of coaching. In choosing to pursue this career, Charlie said he was aware that coaching was a White-dominated industry and that “he did his homework.” His secret to success has been, “I just try to stay positive through it and not let it weigh me down,” as his smile widened and he began to chuckle. “It’s not like I was the cause of it or something.” His optimism, he believed, can inspire change.

Charlie’s positivity has also fueled his persistence. He did not have an opportunity to play in the NFL after his college career, but that did not discourage him from remaining in the game. So when he was asked, why do you keep coming back to work every day? He simply responded, “I love it. I love football.” Of course that response was a simplistic version of the real answer, but he did eventually expand on that thought.

We’re trying to put our hands on people that are going to affect society at some point. I’m tired of hearing all of the negative and whatever I can do in my little part I want to. Then, you know I love football, so it’s two parts of one being around the game and one being around motivated people.

He believes that being around young people has kept him young in spirit as well. Charlie’s perception of the role of a coach went much deeper than the “X’s and O’s” of football. He viewed his role as a coach as someone that would instill the appropriate values in a student-athlete, which he needed to become a successful man, not just a successful athlete.

As Charlie stood on the sideline during an SU spring practice session, he attentively watched the first-team offense run a play. The running back who had just carried the ball came over to the sideline after the whistle had blown and the team reset for the next play. As the student-athlete came to the sideline, he removed his helmet and dropped to one knee with his head gear supporting his opposite side. Charlie turned and positioned himself directly in front of the student-athlete, bent over and with a hand on his shoulder pads spoke to him with intent. The conversation was one-sided with Charlie doing all of the talking. When he was done, the student-athlete stood, towering over the shorter Charlie, put his helmet back on and patted his coach on the back. The student-athlete had received ample coaching and Charlie turned to watch the next play. This exchange was one of many similar that was observed of Charlie during the scrimmage. In fact, at times it was extremely difficult to distinguish the difference between him and the other full-time coaches on staff.

As Charlie continues to work with his student-athletes in improving their character, he is also continuing his efforts to change opportunities for Black coaches. He understands the obstacles that lay before him and other minority coaches, but he believes that over time progress will be made. He attributes this belief to the impact research can have on the industry and the effect of, what he calls, “new success.” He says, “Believing in new success or believing that there can be new success, that’s huge. That’s huge believing that there can be new success and when there is, accepting it.” Charlie’s reference to new success is his belief that, as Black coaches accumulate greater accomplishments, there will be a higher propensity for diversity in the coaching profession.


After discussing the dynamics of the coaching profession with Charlie, it is clear that his perception is that most aspiring Black coaches are aware of the glass ceiling and that it has contributed to the determent of prospective coaches in the industry. Factors that have added to the racial inequity in college coaching include a failure to attain career success, a lack of human and social capital, and discriminatory actions against Black coaches (25). Charlie’s experiences with each of these factors is further evidence that Anderson’s (1) and Finch et al.’s (10) updated argument that Black coaches are limited in their ascension within coaching was accurate. It is the idea of new success that Charlie introduced that is most intriguing regarding this research.

Positivity and new success are elementary concepts, yet have not been applied to the coaching industry in this capacity. In a way, this theme is the antithesis of burnout, referring to the dissatisfaction of an aspiring coach. However, it is arguable that positivity and new success has to do with genetic makeup of the coach and his mindset toward the profession as a whole. Charlie entered the coaching profession because he noted a trend of players being misrepresented in the media. His purpose in his coaching pursuit was to make a difference in student-athletes’ lives. His positive predisposition allowed him to stay and flourish within his job, which may be a factor not present in coaches that previously participated in similar studies. The findings of this research indicate that attitude may heavily impact the success and perception of Black coaches in the industry.

Assistant football coaches have a regimented order in which they ascend up the coaching ranks (1, 10). As a graduate assistant, Charlie is in the first stage of this process. His challenge is making the leap from graduate assistant to running backs coach and eventually to quarterbacks coach, a position he aspires to hold in the short term. As Charlie came on to his undergraduate campus, he was a quarterback. After his coach moved him to wide receiver and eventually running back, he lost ties to the original position that he desired to play. Charlie’s coach moving him to a position with less leadership responsibility is common for Black student-athletes (26). That experience alone may have set Charlie back in his progression towards his goal. As he reemerged as a graduate assistant, he was pigeonholed again as a graduate assistant running backs coach and was working with that position at the time of this study.

Although Charlie did not feel that stacking was a current practice in college sport, there was evidence that he was subjected to the practice during both his playing and coaching careers. Essentially, stacking is moving Black participants, in this case student-athletes, into non-central or non-leadership positions (12). In addition, Day (8) argued that those groups that were susceptible to stacking would have noticeably lower social capital, a necessity in ascending in the coaching industry. Charlie was moved from a central position, quarterback, to non-central positions, wide receiver and running back. The same phenomenon is seen in the coaching landscape with the majority of Black coaches holding the non-central positions of wide receiver, running backs, and defensive backs coaches. White coaches, conversely, are in leadership positions such as offensive and defensive coordinator and head coach. The tension lies in the opportunities, or lack thereof afforded to Black coaches.

The concept of burnout is fascinating when applying it to coaching football. Charlie was not alone working those 16 to 18 hour days. Some of the coaches on staff were known to sleep in the office during busy times. Burnout can certainly impact any coach, regardless of race. However, it is interesting to compare burnout with White coaches as opposed to Black coaches. A White coach, who aspires to become a head coach, could potentially put in years of working 80-plus hour weeks. His regimen could include traveling all over the country, sleeping in hotel rooms, and separation from his family. The same could be said for a Black coach, except the White coach is more than five times more likely to achieve his goal of becoming a head coach (7). As Charlie demonstrated, he is aware that Black coaches are not given the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of coaching as often as White coaches are. For those who aspire to become a head coach, the realization that this goal is nearly impossible to attain underlies why coaches leave the profession. It is also an indication why former Black student-athletes do not enter the profession to begin with.


Charlie’s story is an example of many flaws in the system, as it relates to opportunity. The Black student-athlete as an “athlete” has their growth in leadership positions inhibited. Charlie had exceptional athletic ability and was persuaded to move to a different position to fill a void. Although he had the measurable attributes necessary to play quarterback in college, he also had elevated attributes in other areas that made him marketable at wide receiver and running back. Essentially, his versatility hindered his opportunities to play quarterback. Once he was moved to a different position, he was pigeonholed in that position moving forward through his playing career and into coaching, thus creating a cycle for the student-athlete that demonstrates exceptional athletic ability.

The effect of placing these student-athletes in a pigeonhole is that they are limited in attainable knowledge as they progress in their career. For example, a wide receiver will only learn the nuances of the passing game, while the quarterback necessitates a wider skill set of knowledge (1, 10). Once a former receiver or running back enters coaching they are assigned to a position they did not want to play, but the only one they have enough experience in to coach. Couple those factors with a lack of mentoring and guarded colleagues; there is a reasonable understanding as to why there is so few Black coordinators and head coaches.

A few limitations existed in this study. Charlie’s story, although supported by theory, was a singular example of these practices. His story is relevant to further understanding the perceptions of Black coaches, but is limited in its ability to generalize throughout FBS football. Also, the interviewer in this examination is White, while Charlie is Black. Though Charlie did not seem uncomfortable divulging in his experiences, he may have been more comfortable speaking to a researcher of the same race. Similarly, the interviews were conducted in Charlie’s office. He was forthcoming in his answers and did not seem to hesitate in addressing sensitive topics, but discussing this topic in that setting may have caused him use restraint in his responses.

Charlie, himself, calls for a need for additional inquiry on this topic. As the percentages of Black coaches increase, perceptions of the glass ceiling may change as well. In addition, there is a similar discrepancy in college basketball between Black participants and Black coaches. As the only other revenue-generating sport in the NCAA, basketball warrants further examination on this topic as well. While there is quantitative work in this area, there is a need for further qualitative research on this topic. Therefore, a case study involving a larger group of aspiring Black coaches would render more findings important in forwarding our understanding.


For “Charlie” and him accomplishing his dreams.


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2013-11-22T22:42:18-06:00November 21st, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Black Coaches Trying to Make It in a White-Dominated Industry: College Football and the Racial Divide

Female Representation within Intercollegiate Athletics Departments


The experiences of female employees have differed from males with regard to access to and ascension through a sport organization. Numerous structural and cultural factors could impact these experiences. The purpose of this study was to gain insight from females employed in intercollegiate athletics administration in order to identify factors that have impacted female representation within this field. Eleven females employed at three NCAA Division I institutions located in the Southern United States participated in this study. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. The framework for this study was shaped by social role and role congruity theories. Participants attributed work-family conflict, gender ideologies, and informal social networks as factors that have influenced female representation within thisprofession.



Sport has been labeled the “generic preserve of men” because many sport organizations have been male dominated, especially with regard to management of these organizations (30, 7). Most managerial positions have been occupied by a Caucasian, Protestant, able-bodied, heterosexual male (14, 28). On the other hand, female presence in managerial capacities within sport organizations has not been as widespread.

Explanations with regard to reasons why females have not held the majority of management positions in sport organizations have been offered. One explanation is that sport organizations are settings that often reflect societal attitudes and beliefs (2, 25, 17, 23). Society has traditionally characterized females as caring, good at organizing, and domestically oriented (6). They are also perceived to be empathetic communicators but are not aggressive nor are they “big picture” thinkers. Conversely, it has been argued that males hold managerial positions because society perceives men as natural leaders who have the ability to see the overall vision of an organization (28). Although females have held management positions in numerous sport organizations, the practice of placing them in roles thought of as“appropriate” to their gender has been argued to occur as a result of these attitudes (21, 26, 27). For example, appropriate positions have been described as those related to “housekeeping” roles of management. These roles have been described as those not requiring proficiency in leadership and decision-making but rather emphasizing caring and empathy (12, 11).

The influence of socially constructed meanings associated with gender and perceived congruity or incongruity between these meanings and role fulfillment could also be useful in explaining female representation within sport organizations. Aggressive, ambitious, dominant, forceful, independent, self-sufficient, and self-confident are characteristics attributed to masculinity. On the other hand, caring, kind, and sympathetic are characteristics attributed to femininity (11). Since males are expected to be dominant and aggressive, they would be assumed to be compatible with roles connected to directing others. Since females are expected to demonstrate kindness and sensitivity, they would be assumed to be compatible with roles that involve caring, nurturing, or giving support (9, 8). If an individual fulfills roles that alignwith socially constructed characteristics of masculinity and femininity, role congruity has been achieved (10). Conversely, incongruity would exist if the individual fulfilled a role that did not align with socially constructed masculine or feminine characteristics. As a result of these assumptions, individuals in decision-making capacities at sport organizations might hire and/or promote an individual based on perceptions of congruity between the individual and the role that must be fulfilled.

The field of intercollegiate athletics administration was selected for this study because little research has been devoted to an understanding of why women are underrepresented in key leadership positions in college athletics (24). Overall, females hold nearly 36% of the administrative positions within intercollegiate athletics departments in the United States (1). Although there is a presence of females in this profession, they are present in various roles and operating areas to a larger extent than others. With regard to the position of athletics director, females hold approximately 20% of athletics directors’ positions at NCAA Division I, II, and III institutions (1). Female representation in the athletics director position is lowest at NCAA Division I institutions. These institutions typically incur the highestoperating costs and generate the highest revenues from ticket sales, merchandise, and television contracts (7). Approximately 11% of athletics directors at such institutions are female.

Within this profession, there are certain operating units that are directed in large part by females and others that are directed in large part by males. For example, sports information and operations are areas where males have occupied the vast majority of leadership positions. Sport information directors are responsible for overseeing the maintenance and dissemination of statistical data compiled during athletics competition. Operations directors are primarily responsible for the coordination of maintaining athletics facilities. Approximately 88% of sports information directors and approximately 87% of facility/operations directors at NCAA Division I, II, and III institutions are male (19).

On the other hand, females are represented to a greater extent than males within other operating areas. Academic advising, compliance, and student success/life skills are areas in which the highest percentages of females serve in leadership capacities. Academic advisers and life skills coordinators assist student-athletes with creating their course schedules and help prepare them for life after graduation. Compliance directors ensure the athletics department is compliant with NCAA regulations. Nearly 62% of academic advising units within NCAA Division I, II and III athletics departments are lead by a female. Approximately 54% of all compliance coordinators are female. Lastly, nearly 72% of life skills coordinators are female (19).

In summation, females have a significant presence inside numerous operating areas within the profession of intercollegiate athletics administration but are largely absent from others. In order to gain further insight into possible reasons that have resulted in various levels of female representation in this setting, the perspectives of females employed in this environment were sought. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to gain insight from females employed in intercollegiate athletics administration in order to identify factors that have impacted female representation within this profession.



Because the purpose of this study was to investigate female intercollegiate athletics department employees’ perceptions of factors affecting female representation within their profession, it was important to select participants who could help the investigators achieve this purpose. Purposeful criterion sampling was the first strategy utilized in order to acquire participants for this study. Within purposeful criterion sampling, all cases must meet some pre-determined criterion of importance (22). A second form of purposeful sampling, homogeneous sampling, was utilized. Homogeneous sampling includes selecting similar cases in order to describe some subgroup in depth (16). Female administrators who were employed at intercollegiate athletics departments fit the desired criteria and were selected for this study.

Eleven females employed at three NCAA Division I institutions located in the Southern United States participated in this study. The ages of the participants ranged from 25-53 years. One participant identified herself as African American. Ten identified themselves as Caucasian. Five worked at university “A,” three at university “B,” and three at university “C.” One athletics director, one associate athletics director, one assistant athletics director, and two coordinators from university “A” participated. One associate athletics director, one assistant athletics director, and one coordinator from university “B” participated. Lastly, one assistant athletics director and two coordinators from university “C” participated.

Several operating areas were represented within the participant pool. One of the associate athletics directors was in charge of financial operations. The other associate athletics director oversaw facility and event operations. Two of the assistant athletics directors were in charge of marketing/promotions and one of the assistant athletics directors managed development and fundraising initiatives. Three of the coordinators directed the compliance programs within their respective departments. Two coordinators managed student-athlete academic services.

The length of time each participant was employed within intercollegiate athletics varied. The athletics director served in this field for just over 30 years. The associate athletics directors’ length of service varied from 15 to 20 years. The assistant athletics directors reported lengths of service between six to 12 years. The coordinators were employed in this profession between three and seven years.

Data Collection

After receiving institutional review board approval, the process of acquiring participants began. Potential participants for this study were located through an initial search of each institution’s athletics department web site. Each female administrator in the department was invited to participate in the study via a written letter. The purpose of the study and time commitment associated with participation was provided. Recipients of this letter were asked to respond with their interest via e-mail and were informed that follow-up correspondence would occur via e-mail in the event a response was not received. Six recipients responded to the written letter. The follow-up e-mail was sent approximately two weeks after the initial letters were mailed. Five additional employees agreed to participate after the follow-upe-mail was sent. These eleven individuals were contacted a second time via e-mail in order to arrange an interview at a time and date convenient to them.

Data focusing upon participants’ perceptions of factors affecting female representation in this profession were collected through qualitative measures. This method of inquiry was utilized in order to obtain descriptive data that would allow for a better understanding of the factors participants perceived as significant with regard to position fulfillment in this profession. The data collection method in this study was a semi-structured interview. Interviews were audio taped and lasted between 45-60 minutes. Participants were interviewed individually. When possible, interviews were conducted in a face-to-face format. Several participants were not available to meet in person for their interview. In those cases, interviews were conducted over the telephone. Interviews were conducted in a conference-call style in a securelocation so that only the investigators could hear the participants’ responses. The interview began with a series of pre-formatted, closed-end questions. Examples of closed-end questions included: “How long have you been employed in the profession of intercollegiate athletics administration?” and “What operating areas have you worked in as an employee within this profession?”

As the interview progressed, the investigators encouraged the participant to elaborate on their experiences as well as share their perspectives. Throughout the interview, probing questions were asked in order to obtain further detail and elaboration from the participant. An example of a question that was designed to encourage further elaboration was “Why do you believe females are represented in various operating areas within intercollegiate athletics departments more so than others?” The goal associated with asking these questions was to gain insight into factors they perceived were significant with regard to employment trends and opportunities for females within this profession. Upon completion of the interview, participants were asked debriefing questions. In addition, they chose a pseudonym. All names usedin this study were pseudonyms selected by the participants.

Data Analysis

Interviews were transcribed verbatim. Analytic induction was the approach that was utilized in this study in order to analyze interview data. An inductive approach is utilized when some specific problem, question, or issue becomes the focus of research. When utilizing this approach, the researcher does not attempt to prove or disprove hypotheses held prior to entering the study (4). The primary focus of this research was not to prove or disprove a hypothesis but rather gain insight into female intercollegiate athletics administrators’ perceptions of factors that have affected female representation in their profession.

After the interviews were transcribed, open and axial coding was utilized in order to sort the interview data into categories. Coding is a method of sorting descriptive data that has been collected so that it may be more easily referenced and retrievable at a later time (4). Open coding was the first activity that was practiced in this process. Basic concepts and themes were identified and the data were broken down, examined, and compared. During the open coding process, the authors identified keywords and statements that reoccurred in the interviews.

Once these reoccurring keywords or statements from the interviews were located, the next step was to place this content from the interview data into various categories. Axial coding was utilized in order to reassemble the data that were broken down during the open coding process. Through axial coding, categories were established and then refined in order to further organize and form a precise representation of the participants’ perceptions with regard to factors that have affected female representation within intercollegiate athletics administration.

Upon completion of the open and axial coding processes, a constant comparative method was utilized. A constant comparative method of data analysis entails the simultaneous process of coding and analyzing in order to develop emerging themes (15, 29). As data were analyzed, it was constantly reviewed to ensure the emerging themes accurately reflected the participants’ responses.

An important component of qualitative inquiry includes establishing trustworthiness (16). This process entails utilizing various procedures in order to convince the reader that measures were taken to ensure the material s/he is reading is consistent with what the participants actually said and experienced (22). Trustworthiness can be accomplished through a number of techniques. The techniques of peer debriefing and member checking were utilized in this study.

Peer debriefing includes external reflection and input into the researcher’s work (16). Two colleagues experienced in qualitative inquiry examined the transcripts as well as the manuscript and subsequently provided feedback. These individuals confirmed the content in the manuscript was an accurate representation of the content in the interview transcripts.

The process of member checking allows participants to confirm their statements were reported accurately (16). Each participant was provided with a copy of the transcript and manuscript. Participants were requested to analyze the documents in order to ensure their statements were reported accurately. All of the participants responded to a request for feedback and indicated their statements in the transcript and manuscript were recorded accurately.


The purpose of this study was to gain insight from female athletics administration employees in order to identify factors that have impacted female representation within intercollegiate athletics departments. Three themes emerged from the participants’ responses. The themes were: (a) work-family conflict, (b) gender ideologies and the “natural” fit, and (c) male dominated social networks.

Work-family Conflict

Females often assume the majority of domestic responsibilities in the household. In order to be perceived as committed to an organization, however, employees are expected to manage their domestic responsibilities in such a fashion so that they do not interfere with work responsibilities (18). Maintaining domestic responsibilities while fulfilling occupational responsibilities could be especially difficult because the employee might be required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays as well as travel frequently (5).

Work-family incompatibilities were repeatedly stated as a reason why participants believed females hold few of the management positions within various operating areas. Several participants indicated that extended hours and travel are significant aspects of their jobs and mentioned that females who work in this profession oftentimes leave because the quantity of hours spent on occupational obligations prevents them from fulfilling their domestic responsibilities. In order to stay in the profession, many female employees have elected to not start families of their own. Keri was a compliance coordinator within her department. She discussed how senior administrators in her department who have been in the profession for a number of years are single. She attributed their longevity to the fact that they have minimal domesticresponsibilities. She said,

I think for a lot of women, where it becomes important is do you want a family or a career?

I think one of our senior administrators out of 4 or 5 is married. I had a female boss at

another school and she didn’t get married until she was 40. She’s a senior manager, but for

40 years of her life it was either have a family or have a career, which is ultimately what it

comes down to.

As mentioned earlier, females working in this profession are represented within several operating areas more so than others. Academic advising, compliance, and student services have the highest percentages of female representation (19). A reason that was given with regard to why females are employed in these operating areas results from the schedule associated with particular positions. Lisa, an assistant athletics director in charge of marketing activities, acknowledged that females with families of their own manage these operating areas more often than others because of the required work schedule. She said,

Positions such as academic advising that don’t require you to travel or work on weekends

may be more appealing to women who are also mothers. I would also say that women that

don’t have families are more likely to take positions that are not overly represented by


The demands of the profession and potential work-family incompatibilities that could occur might not only cause many females to leave the profession but also prevent them from entering. Barbara was the athletics director in her department. She believed the occupational demands prevent many females from seeking employment in this field. She said,

The hours, the travel, the time doesn’t necessarily compute to a normal life. It is not a job

that is for everyone and it seems to me that the women we’re turning out in these sport

management programs, the students who get their degrees, they look at our jobs and very

few of them say ‘this is what I want to do.’

In summation, social role expectations are such that females are expected to assume domestic responsibilities to a greater extent than males (23). Many jobs within intercollegiate athletics administration make fulfilling domestic responsibilities difficult because an irregular schedule and frequent travel is often required (5). According to the participants, work-family incompatibilities prevent many females from entering into and/or remaining in the field. If they do, it is often in a position where the schedule better allows for the fulfillment of domestic responsibilities.

Gender Ideologies and the “Natural” Fit

Various assumptions with regard to gender and the fulfillment of employment roles exist within various sport organizations (28). It has been argued that certain positions are more appropriate for male employees whereas others are more appropriate for females (3). Within intercollegiate athletics departments, female representation is higher in some operating areas than others (19). For example, an area where female representation is high is academic advising for student-athletes. As a result of traditional gender ideologies and normative social roles, this position could be thought of as a natural fit for female employees. This is because females are assumed to be caring and nurturing and the advisor is often called upon to provide guidance or help nurture a student-athlete (26). Since congruency is perceived to exist betweenthe nature of the job and the nature of females, they might be thought of as better suited than males for this position.

Participants in this study were asked to provide their perspective as to why positions in certain areas are predominately held by females. Rebecca was the compliance coordinator within her department. She identified congruency between feminine attributes and the tasks associated with the position as a reason why females are more likely to be employed in areas such as academic advising. She said, “I think women are more caregivers and nurturers and they are naturally a better fit for some of those areas. You’re caring for student athletes and helping them develop. I think it fits with the nature of women.”

Elaine was the coordinator of academic services within her department. She also identified congruency between feminine attributes and required job tasks as a reason why females are present in such roles to a greater extent than males. She stated, “Academic advising is thought of as taking care of the kids, so to speak. Typically that type of thing lends itself towards getting a woman to do that.”

Rebecca and Elaine were two participants who did not view the possibility of gender ideologies influencing the fulfillment of certain positions within this profession as problematic. On the other hand, Maria expressed concern with this outcome at her institution. Maria was an associate athletics director in charge of facilities and event operations. She was concerned with the thought processes that result in the paucity of females within certain operating units and their abundance in others. She said,

My biggest concern is that there are tracks that they (females) are being hired for. You look

at a lot of schools and it seems that the top academic person is a woman and your top

compliance person is a woman if there are any women at all. I question if women are being

put into tracks that they think are female areas, taking care of kids so to speak. What I fear

is typecasting. You know, “this is a woman’s job.” Doing academic stuff. What I wish

would happen is that women are represented in every position across athletics programs.

Several other participants believed gender ideologies and position fulfillment have served to the detriment of female employees in this profession. Looking forward, however, participants perceived that gender ideologies influencing perceptions of natural fit as well as fulfillment of positions are disintegrating. Within this changing environment, participants felt that females are receiving stronger consideration for positions in operating areas where they have been previously underrepresented. Lori, the compliance coordinator within her department, stated,

I think it (the practice of hiring females for certain tracks) was sort of a reflection of society

where that was the case 20-25 years ago. I think it’s the same mentality that women are

teachers or nurses and that women should do academic support and some of the more care

and nurturing positions within an athletics department. I think that has to do with societal

perceptions about what women’s roles are but I don’t feel like that’s the case now. The

women I work with now are in the business office or the marketing or communications

office so I don’t feel like there’s a place now where they’re saying ‘that’s not an

appropriate place for a woman.’

In summation, gender ideologies were perceived as a factor that shaped female representation in this profession. The impact of gender ideologies upon position fulfillment in this profession resulted in higher levels of female representation in areas where caring and nurturing were perceived as significant job elements. Although gender ideologies were perceived to have affected female representation, participants perceived changing mindsets have resulted in increased female representation in operating areas that have been largely occupied by men.

Male Dominated Social Networks

Sport organizations such as intercollegiate athletics departments have traditionally been male dominated and have served the interests of men. Coakley (7) argued that females do not have strategic connections and networks to compete with male candidates for many upper level administrative positions. Informal networking could provide employees with valuable information and insight to aid in the advancement of their careers (20). Furthermore, membership within an informal network could help an individual access a position or promotion while lack of membership in such networks could prevent this access (24). Historically, white males have possessed those connections and held membership in the “old boys” network. As members of this network, they enjoyed preferential treatment in the hiring process or were givenpositions as a result of relationships they possessed with other members of this network (20).

The influence of informal networks upon female representation emerged from participants’ responses. Specifically, its effect upon the presence of females in upper level managerial positions (e.g., athletics director) was commented upon. Participants acknowledged that hiring practices benefitting members of the old boys network still exist; however, they perceived these practices occur with less frequency than before. As intercollegiate athletics programs have grown, they identified a shift from hiring someone based solely on a personal connection to someone who is qualified to run a department has occurred.

Sarah was an associate athletics director in charge of financial operations in her department. She has worked in this profession for just over 20 years and has seen changes in the way athletics departments fill vacancies. She acknowledged that the old boys network still exists but perceived that fewer vacancies are now filled through this network. She stated,

Rather than seeing where you used to have a good old boy network, picking their buddies

to fill various roles, now you’re seeing applicant pools and search committees utilizing

outside networks and resources for people to look for qualified candidates and that sort of

thing. I think it still exists to some extent and there are certain administrators that would be

very comfortable in hiring people they know. Do I think that’s the way the future of this

business is going? No. Everything I see is that people are taking more of a professional

approach to the business.

Barbara has worked in intercollegiate athletics administration for over 30 years. She also acknowledged the old boys network is still present but stated that hiring on the basis of a personal relationship has declined. The reason behind this was because the growth of athletics programs into multi-million dollar operations dictated the acquisition of personnel who could successfully run the department. She said,

I believe it’s still alive. I don’t know it’s alive and strong. I think it is decaying in some

ways because we don’t matriculate old coaches up any more. I think at one time you could

get a job if you knew the right people and it didn’t matter if you were qualified for the job.

I don’t believe that’s true anymore. Athletics today is not just looked at as being sport; it is

looked at as being a business. So now you’re bringing people along, whether they are male

or female, to execute the business at hand.

In summation, the presence of informal networks limited past opportunities for females in this profession. This was especially prevalent in the fulfillment of upper level positions such as athletics director. Participants perceived these networks have weakened and additional upper level administrative opportunities for females resulted. Although female representation is lower in the role of athletics director as opposed to various operating areas, participants were optimistic this position could see a greater level of female representation as objective measures are increasingly utilized in order to fill vacancies.


A number of factors were identified with regard to position fulfillment among females within intercollegiate athletics administration. First, incompatibility between occupational and domestic obligations was identified as a reason that has limited female representation within various operating areas. This was most evident in areas that require working irregular schedules and frequent travel.

Second, gender ideologies were identified as a reason why females are employed within various operating areas more so than others. Females have been assumed to be a better fit for positions where exercising feminine attributes are important (28). Participants perceived that females are more highly represented in areas such as academic advising and student services because the attributes needed to effectively fulfill the position in these areas are congruent with characteristics such as nurturing and empathy, which are commonly perceived as feminine.

Third, the presence of informal networks was perceived to affect female representation, especially in the athletics director position. Intercollegiate athletics programs have traditionally benefitted male applicants because of the presence of the old boys network. Although these networks have impacted position fulfillment in the past, participants perceived these networks are weakening as the process of filling vacancies has become more objective.


Circumstances that affect opportunities for females in this profession should be critically examined on an ongoing basis. Fink (13) stated, “We must continue to examine the issues of gender and sex diversity in sport organizations in order to make these organizations accessible, comfortable, and beneficial to all” (p. 147). Shaw (26) also advocated for ongoing critical inquiry of these issues because of the impact they could have upon organizational effectiveness. Furthermore, Coakley (7) stated that sport organizations “must critically assess the impact of male dominated/identified/centered forms of social organization” (p. 254). Continued critical inquiry on this topic is needed because of the effect it could have upon an organization as well as the experience of the individual employee.

A potential limitation associated with this study is that single interviews were conducted with each participant. It is possible that participants’ perspectives will change over time. For example, participants who did not see certain trends as problematic at this time might feel differently if they were passed over for a promotion for which they felt qualified. A suggestion for future research is to conduct longitudinal studies. These could reveal changing perspectives over the course of a career.

Lastly, further examination of perspectives and experiences of current employees could be beneficial to those who are interested in pursuing a career in this profession. By learning from those who are already employed, individuals who possess an interest in entering this profession could be better prepared for the challenges and circumstances they might encounter. Ideological thinking will continue to exist and requirements inherent to particular jobs in this profession will remain. By conducting ongoing critical inquiry within these environments, however, it is hoped these efforts will be useful in uncovering thought processes and subsequent hiring practices that have affected female representation in this profession.




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2013-11-22T22:43:10-06:00November 21st, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Management, Women and Sports|Comments Off on Female Representation within Intercollegiate Athletics Departments
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